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UL plays central role in first all-island Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity study

Speaking at the launch of the first All-Island Children's Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study was Professor Catherine Woods, UL and Research Study Lead Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Thu, 26 Sep 2019

Only 13% of children are meeting the Department of Health’s national physical activity guidelines, according to a new study led by researchers at University of Limerick.

Sport Ireland, Sport Northern Ireland and Healthy Ireland (through the Healthy Ireland fund) published the first all-island Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity (CSPPA 2018) study this Thursday.

It provides rich insights into the experiences of children and adolescents throughout the island around their participation in physical activity, sport and physical education. In the case of children from the Republic of Ireland it also includes comparisons with the results of the CSPPA 2010 study commissioned by Sport Ireland.

The report contains a mixture of positive findings as well as highlighting some significant challenges in the areas of physical activity, sport and physical education.

It involved some 6,600 students from 115 schools across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland along with school principals and teachers from many of these schools. The CSPPA 2018 research team comprised of researchers and students from University of Limerick, Dublin City University, University College Cork and Ulster University.

Professor Catherine Woods, chair of Physical Activity for Health, UL, was the principal investigator on the study and said it was “wonderful to be part of this important research.

“For Ireland to have established how active or inactive our children are, is an opportunity for change.  CSPPA has provided us with an important benchmark, we know right now that only 13% of children are meeting the physical activity guidelines.

“What I would like to see is a real commitment that this is as low as we go. From here, realistic targets need to be set, achievable actions informed by best practice put in place, with robust regular monitoring to ensure we are on track for change. Only then, will we see real progress,” she added.

Speaking at the publication of the CSPPA 2018, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, said: “From this excellent study, which has been completed with a most welcome level of North-South research collaboration, we can see that the majority of children are participating in organised sport, at either community or school level.

“While that is good news, we need to build on this achievement by providing more support to parents, clubs and communities with the resources they need to ensure children have a broad range of opportunities to participate.

“A Sports Action Plan covering the period to end 2022 will be presented to Government by the end of this year which will contain a number of specific actions designed to address the significant challenges that this report is clearly outlining”.

Kieran Mulvey, Chairperson of Sport Ireland’s Board, said: “CSPPA 2018 highlights the significant levels of sports participation among children and young people on the island and the contribution that such participation makes to their health, well-being and development.

“Sport Ireland is committed to working in partnership with key stakeholders under the National Sports Policy to ensure that the benefits from being active are available to all our children and young people.”

The report contains a mixture of positive findings as well as highlighting some significant challenges in the areas of physical activity, sport and physical education. These include:

•             Only a small minority of children, North and South, are active enough to meet the physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity per day. The numbers meeting the guidelines decline as children get older.

•             Levels of active and social participation in sport, in the school and in the community, are high although there are notable differences for particular groups based on age, gender, disability, and social class. Children who play sport regularly are significantly more likely to meet the physical activity guidelines.

•             In the Republic of Ireland, notable improvements were seen in active commuting (walking or cycling) to school since the previous study in 2010 although barriers exist here around the distance to travel to schools and the question of safety.

•             Compared to 2010, some improvements were recorded around the delivery of Physical Education although the report identifies that more needs to be done in this regard.

Antoinette McKeown, Chief Executive for Sport Northern Ireland, said: “Sport NI welcomes the launch of the Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA 2018) as follow up to the original CSPPA Study (2010). I would like to express my thanks to the researchers involved on both sides of the border who have produced an invaluable look into children’s activity levels on the island of Ireland.

“Notably, this is the first time that Northern Irish statistics have been included in the collection of data in the CSPPA reports- this provides an excellent base for future policy development and delivery.”

The study is expected to provide valuable baseline material against which future progress under policy developments under the National Sports Policy and National Physical Activity Plan can be assessed.

The full Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity study and the Infographics which summarise all the key results can be downloaded at www.sportireland.ie/Research.